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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

RPGPundit Reviews: The God That Crawls

This is a review of the LotFP adventure, "The God That Crawls", written by James Raggi, published by Lamentations of the Flame Princess.  It's 46 pages long, softcover, with a full-colour cover (featuring an illustration of some peasants marching up to an ominous church), and black and white interiors.

It contains a foldout map at the back of the book that features a full-colour map of the dungeon on one side, and a spectacular piece of art on the other, depicting an adventuring party (that includes the iconic "Flame Princess" character) in an encounter with the crawling god of the title.

This adventure is listed as being for characters of 1st-2nd level. As always, with modules I'm more than a little reluctant to reveal any of the big secrets of the adventure so as to avoid spoilers.  What I can say is this: this adventure as a product has some very worthwhile parts. On the other hand, it also suffers from what has of late been described as the "nega-dungeon" complex, or what I would call "Raggi-cynicism".

It seems like a lifetime ago, what with it being before the release of the 5e book and the glorious shitstorm that unleashed, and all the OSR-people coming together in solidarity against the Outrage Brigade that followed, but it was really less than a month ago that I found myself in a serious argument with a significant chunk of the OSR, and some of its "hippest" superstars, for what I saw as a fundamental lack of faith in the actual values of old-school gaming.  This adventure is pretty emblematic of that: in the Introduction, Raggi as blatantly says that The God That Crawls is a railroad meant to screw over adventurers that act like D&D adventurers should.

The adventure itself consists of a very interesting backstory (but note: one that, as written, is based on being set on Earth, in England, and with a Christian religious background; it would require some significant modifications, and would no doubt lose a bit of its style, if it were set anywhere else), and a dungeon with essentially a single monster (there's technically more than one monster, but really only one that mainly matters).  The twist is that this is a monster which is almost certainly impossible for a 1st or 2nd level party to defeat. There are also a variety of perils and traps, some of which are standard, but a significant number of which are essentially based on penalizing player characters for acting the way adventurers would typically act in a dungeon.

There's a very high chance of a total party kill if the adventure is run as suggested by the author.

Now, that said, is it all bad?  No.

There are certainly redeeming qualities to The God That Crawls, even if you're not particularly interested in doing an adventurer-screwing session.  For starters, the adventure itself is certainly interesting; the backstory to it is fairly fascinating.  It's only unfortunate that most groups wouldn't live long enough to figure out any of what's going on. 

As a dungeon, it's very interesting, this in spite of the relative lack of monsters; it's the details of the dungeon itself that make it interesting.  The notion of a dungeon where the big difficulty is figuring out how to get out is also interesting. The main peril in the dungeon is absolutely overwhelming to a 1st or 2nd level group, but a group of a few more average levels than that would probably be in a fairly sweet spot, where the big bad would still be dangerous enough to represent an ongoing risk, but not a situation of certain death.

But in fact, probably the most impressive thing in the book is it's collection of objects, almost all of them what you could technically call "cursed", though not in the standard D&D form.  Many of them are, rather, objects that have some kind of utility (not immediately apparent), but also some kind of serious (sometimes eventually fatal) setback.  Almost all of them are really unique, unlike anything you'll be likely to have seen in a D&D game before.
Now, some of these are utterly impractical (the "Chariot", for example, an object that gets almost two full pages even though there's practically zero chance of ever getting it out of the dungeon to be able to use it), some could be devastating to your campaign, a couple are just stupid, but most of them are the truly fascinating sort of magical objects that are very dangerous and yet potentially very useful, and most importantly, objects that will be highly memorable in any campaign.

My conclusion? This adventure is good for three very specific things: first, if you really buy into Raggi's cynicism and want to run an adventure that punishes D&D players for playing D&D.
Second, if you want to modify it slightly and run it for a group of slightly higher than the recommended level.
Third, if you want to cannibalize it for ideas, particularly several of the interesting magical items in the book.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Volcano + H&H's Beverwyck

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Famous Pipe Smokers

Today I take a break from the RPG madness, in order to see off The Wench, who is going on a trip back home for a few months.  I'll be accompanying her to the airport.

So for the day, I leave you with another edition of 'famous pipe smokers'.  Today's pipe smoker was famous mainly for smoking a pipe, in spite of being some kind of orbital spy satellite.

(he looks so serene, floating there in space, with his newspaper and what appears to be a very nice Lovat pipe)

Yes, Edwin Hubble was a pipe smoker. Also, a galactic-scale Peeping Tom.


Currently Smoking: Ashton Old Church Rhodesian + C&D's Crowley's Best

Monday, 28 July 2014

UnCracked Monday: The Truly Toxic People of This Hobby

Today, something that's pretty well a Must-Read in terms of the recent and ongoing conflict this month around the fact that the Outrage Brigade has tried to slur, slander, and generally lie their way into trying to convince Wizards of the Coast to denounce two people who helped in some small part to make the (very successful) 5th edition of D&D what it is: myself, and Zak S.

You've heard plenty from me if you're one of my readers, and Zak has had plenty to say as well, but this is a detailed story from Mandy Morbid, Zak's partner and of the "porn stars" of Zak S' "D&D with Porn Stars".  It's entitled "More Reasons People Found to Hate Me", and it points out how the Outrage Brigade, far from trying to destroy Zak's out of concern about 'misogyny', have really been in an offensive campaign against him for years now specifically BECAUSE his old-school campaign has an all-girl group, some of whom have disabilities, some of whom are of color, not all of whom are straight.  Yeah, Zak sure sounds like a discriminatory asshole, doesn't he?

(Image: Zak engaging in his exclusionary campaign of patriarchal oppression of women and minorities)

But why would they be opposed to this? Simple: it ruins their narrative. People like Mandy ruin their constructed story that they want to use to be able to get to be the gatekeepers, to get to be in control.  They don't actually care about women, or about race, or about ableism, or about homophobia, so much as THEY (and note; a very significant number of 'they' are white straight male nerds) care about getting to be the ones who decide what should or should not happen in the hobby, allegedly for the 'sake' of these minority groups.  Their power-grab depends on a scenario where the hobby as it exists has no good place for these demographics.  Where the luminaries of the hobby as it exists (that is, people who argue against their ideas about how gaming "should be" for everyone) are obviously prejudiced monsters who engage in terrible discrimination against others, and not just big meanies who call them out on their total bullshit.

See, I'm not trying to take the moral high ground. I know this is a fight for and about the hobby; and unlike the other side, I don't try to pretend it isn't. I don't pretend that I care about things I don't, I just tell the truth.  But the other side?  The other side is pathologically incapable of doing so, because they desperately want to pretend they're above it all even as they fling their feces and try to destroy the lives of their opponents.

And you know the result of that? The justification that they've invented for themselves, their projected image as "social justice warriors" lets them rationalize crossing lines I would NEVER cross. I would never say "go kill this guy". I'd never knowingly LIE and say "this guy threatened to rape people", get caught in said lie, and then say "Ok, he didn't but we should all keep pretending he did anyways!".  I wouldn't say "this guy is homophobic", and then when he says he isn't and expresses his absolute support for inclusive language in the new D&D rules delete his comment, ban him from the conversation, and try to keep up what is then a proven lie because I just don't like him.

I might be an asshole, sure. But the other guys, over in the "Outrage Brigade"? Those guys are the FUCKING MONSTERS. Because they think that they're inherently superior to everyone else,  think they know what's "best" for everyone, and since they think that truth is relative to your personal feels, it means they feel justified in doing ANYTHING at all if it means their side will win.

Including a ruthless campaign of insults and harassment against women who actually game in the hobby; the exact demographic they claim to care so much about.

So yeah, go read Mandy's story, it tells you all about how she came into the hobby, how "D&D With Pornstars" happened, how the exact same people attacking me and Zak now were the ones who called her "Brain Damaged" (that sure seems to be a favorite insult among the Swine, huh? I'm supposed to be 'toxic' for using the word 'swine', but they throw around "literally brain damaged" at specific individuals and D&D gamers as a whole, like it was candy!), the ones who called her and her friends "hookers" and said she should stop "making noise", people saying she should be forced to stop participating in the web series about women gaming she chose to be involved in because she clearly doesn't know what's in her own best interest (even claiming she has "stockholm syndrome") and is being 'harmful to women', who have tried to silence her because she's inconvenient to their attacks on Zak, and generally want her to shut up and disappear because they 'care so much about women gamers'.

Go read it, and see just who the really truly Toxic element of this hobby really are.  A hint: they're not the people who helped make the brand spanking new edition of D&D awesome.


Currently Smoking: Moretti Rhodesian + Gawith's Squadron Leader

Sunday, 27 July 2014

RPGPundit Reviews: Advanced Fighting Fantasy

This is a review of “Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone’s Advanced Fighting Fantasy: The Roleplaying Game”.  Whew.

The version I’m reviewing is the new edition of said game, written by Graham Bottley, published by Arion Games in collaboration with Cubicle 7.

Many of us can remember with fondness from our youth those great Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, which were like Choose Your Own Adventure, but with balls. It had a combat system! It was just one step away from being an actual RPG.  That step was, of course, Dungeoneer: Advanced Fighting Fantasy, the RPG based on the FF gamebooks that came out sometime in the 80s to some considerable success.  For many people, Fighting Fantasy, even before D&D, was their “gateway drug”, it was the first thing even vaguely like roleplaying that they ever did. And for more than a few, AFF (or “Dungeoneer”) was their first actual RPG.  I still have, somewhere deep in the recesses of my library, my old Dungeoneer book, as well as Titan and Port Blacksand (two of the sourcebooks). 

Now, Arion Games (who had previously re-published the Maelstrom RPG and the new Maelstrom Companion) have re-published the Advanced Fighting Fantasy book, the “Out of The Pit” monster book, and the Titan fantasy setting book.  I’ll be reviewing those latter two books sometime very soon; from what I can see, those two have been kept exactly as they were back when first released (I’m not 100% sure about Out of The Pit, as I didn’t own it).  AFF, on the other hand, has been extensively remade by Graham Bottley to be more playable.  The old Dungeoneer was pretty fun, but it was, frankly, seriously limited as an RPG.  It was too easy to get too powerful. The rules were just a bit too simplistic.  The magic system was seriously messed up.

This new edition of AFF is Mr.Bottley’s attempt to resolve all that.  Does he succeed? Let’s take a look.

Starting with the outside, there’s one serious change, which is that the old Dungeoneer was an “oversize pocketbook”, the same kind of format as the old Fighting Fantasy books.  The new AFF is a full-sized RPG softcover. It has a redone cover but with the same awesome illustration that the cover of the old Dungeoneer featured, and the interior art is basically the same. The book clocks in at 175 pages.

The introduction gets right to the heart of what AFF is supposed to be about: Fighting. It presents the basic combat system mechanic before any other rule.  That’s perfect, because it makes clear the tone of the kind of games you’re going to want to play with this system, high adventure, high violence.  The combat system continues to be the tried and true one from the old FF books: you roll 2d6, add your Skill attribute (plus any bonus from special skills or other mods), your opponent does likewise, whoever rolled higher does damage.  Damage is rolled on a special table by weapon type.  If a character has armor, they roll on a special table to see how much damage was absorbed by the armor. Shields can further reduce damage.  If a character is unarmored he can used Dodge to try to reduce damage.

Next, still before anything like character creation, we get a sample adventure, “The Well”.  This is a totally new adventure, different from the ones that appeared in the old Dungeoneer book.  Those were quite good, this one is… well, its a fine totally random dungeon.  I mean for fuck’s sake, there’s a dwarven tavern right smack dab in the middle of the dungeon, surrounded on all sides by rooms filled with monster and traps!  Seriously, that must have been the worst business decision in the world.
Anyways, it too definitely sets the tone: dungeon crawl and gonzo.  But I wonder if it doesn’t go a bit too far? I recall that the original adventure in Dungeoneer was mostly hack n’ slash but with a plot of rescuing some kind of princess from an evil wizard, and I think that on the whole that had been the better adventure.

Character creation has been changed from the old game.  You used to have three stats: Skill, Stamina, and Luck.  Now you have a fourth stat, Magic, which mostly resolves the problems the old game used to have with spellcasters. It used to be that all attributes were rolled randomly; now the default game is a point-buy system where you divide points into the stats (and it does it kind of awkwardly).  I have heard Mr.Bottley say this was absolutely necessary for the sake of balance, and he may have a point, but on the other hand, I don’t think anyone is going to be playing Advanced Fighting Fantasy for the “balance”.  In any case, in the appendix at the back of the game an optional system of random character generation is provided, and its better-balanced than the old random system was.

In the game, Skill handles your ability at any and all skills as well as hitting in combat. Stamina is your hit points, and Luck is basically your saving throws, though you can also use luck to try to help you in combat. Luck points decrease every time you use Luck, and replenish between games.  Magic is the stat used for spellcasting, and its used in different ways in each of the three types of magic provided (more on that later).  You also choose a race during character creation, the three provided as default races are human, elf and dwarf.  Humans get a bonus to luck, elves to magic, and dwarves to stamina. Each race also gets differing special skills.

Special skills are what in any other RPG would just be called “skills”.  They are bonuses usually ranging from 1-4, and are added to one’s Skill attribute or Magic attribute when checks are made in that relevant area.  All skill checks are resolved with a 2d6 roll, where you have to get equal or less than the character’s Skill (or Magic) attribute, modified by their special skill scores if any.
There are 48 special skills in all, divided into various categories.  These include combat skills, which add bonuses to your Skill roll with specific weapons, and Magic skills which are required for the different kinds of magic available in the game.  Knowledge special skills are rolled with EITHER your Skill or your Magic score, whichever is higher, allowing for Wizards to be learned in various lores without having to have a kickass combat score at the same time. In all, the system is quite well designed.

The special skills are a (modified) mechanic from the old Dungeoneer, but the Talents, which comes next, were not from that book.  Each PC chooses a single talent, or special ability, for their character.  These include such things as ambidexterity, Armour Training (which improves the benefits of wearing armour), Dark Seeing, Knighted (which starts you out at a high social class and with extra equipment), Silver Tongue (bonus to the social skills), and Trapmaster (a bonus to dealing with traps), plus plenty more.

Frankly, to me this section in particular should have been random selection. NOTHING will slow down character creation more than having to read players a list of 32 feats, explain what they are, and wait while they try to figure out which ONE of those will actually be the most useful for them.  This step alone is likely to double character creation time, and that’s a big mistake in a game where one of the great virtues is simplicity and ease of play.

Finally, you get a social status (which you can choose, or optionally is randomly rolled), and you get magic points if you’re a spellcaster as well as choosing your initial spells. You start out the game with some pre-determined items rather than just having gold and then getting to buy what you want.  The gamebook then provides you a set of archetypal PCs as examples and for instant play.

While the game system itself is quite simple, the game book provides a good deal of information about how to resolve a variety of issues in play.  Rules are provided for movement, riding, climbing, falling, jumping, swimming (and drowning), dodging, encumbrance,  social reactions, bribery, conning, disguise, trade, doors and locks, lighting conditions, fires, poison, disease, traps, awareness/perception, hiding, sleight of hand, and handling knowledge skills.

The combat system is expanded upon from the basic mechanic provided at the start of the book.  Rules are provided for criticals and fumbles, multiple combat and attacks, missile combat, mounted combat, weapon descriptions, armour descriptions, surprise, unarmed combat, and special combat options; as well as injury, death, and healing.

So really, you get the best of both worlds with AFF; its a damned simple system, but most of the important situations that can arise in a typical adventure game are dealt with and options provided as to how to resolve them.

There are three magic systems in AFF; really four, if you count “minor magic” (which are like cantrips, and that anyone can have if they buy the skill in it, even characters who are otherwise non-spellcasters). The three major systems of magic are Wizardry, Sorcery, and Priestly power.  Wizardry is like the basic spellcasting system brought over from the old Dungeoneer game; only now you use Magic and Magic points to resolve it rather than Skill and Stamina (this fixes the major problems of the old system).

Sorcery is the system from the old “Sorcery!” gamebooks (which were set in the fighting fantasy world of Titan, but on a different continent from the main setting of Allansia); and in this current book it takes the form of spells that are rolled with magic but cost Stamina rather than Spell points to use. Sorcery spells also often require material components to cast.  While a Wizard starts with a limited number of spells, and must buy more with experience, the Sorcerer begins knowing all the Sorcery spells.
Wizards and Sorcerers are both only limited by their pool of either Magic Points or Stamina for casting spells; but they must make a successful magic check to cast a spell.  If they fail, the points are spent but the spell doesn’t go off.  If they get double-sixes, they’ve had a magical fumble and must roll on the “oops” table, which has a variety of problematic effects (mostly non-lethal).

As for Priestly magic, in the old Dungeoneer there were no priest spells, but a list of priest spells were presented in the Port Blacksand sourcebook, that worked exactly the same as wizardry did, if I recall correctly.  In the new AFF, priestly magic works very differently; you choose a deity, and each deity has a special unique power, plus three priest spells that this deity allows its priests to cast.  Priests don’t have to actually make any magic check at all to use their powers, their Magic score just becomes the measure of the level of power their spell has.  Priests can only use each power once a day, but can spend a point of luck to cast a second spell in the same day.

One interesting detail about priestly powers is that only ONCE in their lifetime, a Priest can call on “Salvation”, direct divine intervention to rescue themselves, and optionally their comrades from mortal peril.  I thought that was a nice touch.

The book then gives a bit (about 6 pages worth) of setting material for the world of Titan, the famous setting of the FF books, focusing on the continent of Allansia, where most of those adventures took place.  This is obviously very bare-bones setting info, meant to provide an extremely vague alternative to buying the Titan setting book.  You get also a standard price list, with items priced according to their costs in cities, towns or villages.

After that we get a couple of pages of “Director” (GM) advice, and then a listing of some of the monsters of FF, in a big table with no thrills, again, this is a substitute to buying Out of the Pit.  I notice that it gives some conversion notes for monsters from Out of The Pit, which seems to confirm that the latter book was reprinted straight without bothering to adapt it to the new system (for things like equivalent monster armor, monster weapon, and special abilities).  This is interesting, was there some good reason why it wasn’t done, or was it just author laziness?  I guess the answer to that can wait until I review Out of the Pit in a short while. Some brief guidelines are provided in how to design other monsters, as well as NPC non-monster enemies.

Some guidance is provided in designing your adventures, for things like adventure location; plots, and there’s an innovative though slightly gimmicky dungeon-design system provided.  It starts by dropping a number of dice on a sheet of paper, noting where they fall and linking those spots (the rooms) with corridors, to create a dungeon. A set of simple random tables lets you fill in the dungeon, and a small sample dungeon (“agbar’s retreat”) is provided.

You also get treasure tables, which (like many details of this game) are closer in spirit to WFRP than D&D, you get (at most) hundreds rather than thousands or tens-of-thousands of GP, and magic items are quite rare; so that those items provided (and there’s a decent list of magic items provided) tend toward what in D&D would be thought of as the lower end of the power spectrum.  Of course, the way the system works, getting a magic sword that adds +1 to your damage or to your Skill is a pretty freaking huge help.

The last pages of the gamebook provide optional rules, including the aforementioned random character creation rules (which I for one certainly like more than point-buy), some guidelines to creating new character races, a few optional magic rules (including how to run “fallen priests” who have ended up on the outs with their deity), and an alternate method of skill resolution.   A blank character sheet is provided, and then a reprinting of virtually all the important tables of the game right at the back for easy reference. You even get a couple of blank pages specifically noted for jotting down “house rules”.

So the big question is how useful is this game as an actual RPG, and not just nostalgia?  I played the crap out of dungeoneer when I was in my teens, and quite enjoyed it, but I know that I would not find it a really viable game to run today.  Advanced Fighting Fantasy manages to fix up enough of the game that it suddenly becomes far more viable to consider running.  Its style is very reminiscent of Warhammer, that thoroughly British sort of fantasy, and I do think that it would be kind of like WFRP’s answer to Basic D&D; a faster lighter game compared to WFRP that I could play when I wanted the same kind of feel but didn’t want to bother with the complexities of the former game.  I have no plans right now to run AFF, but I can certainly see the possibility of it happening, particularly if I should ever need a game that is good for beginners, or that I want to be able start up quickly.
On the whole, I think that anyone who ever liked a fighting fantasy book will not be disappointed by this game.

The worst thing: The designer went too far in seeking to “balance” the system; Point buy sucks, and the list of Talents is a disaster waiting to happen.  Fortunately, there’s a random option for character creation, although unfortunately, that does not include a random table for talents (I mean seriously, would it have been so hard to include a table and then say “GMs have the option to require players to roll, or allow them to choose a talent”?).

The best thing: Pretty much everything.  This book takes a classic and beloved game and remakes it into something totally playable and usable for relatively easy adventuring.

Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti half-volcano + Gawith’s Perfection

(originally reposted May 5, 2013)

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Why Do Commercial RPGs Succeed?

A few days back I posted an old blog entry asking "why do commercial RPGs fail"?  And a lot of people found it quite interesting, but a few of them have been cajoling me into sharing my thoughts as to the opposite end of the spectrum; that is, why do commercial RPGs succeed? What's the special formula for success?

So here's what I'd say on the subject:

1. Promotion: you might have written the greatest RPG in the history of the Universe; but if no one knows it exists, you're screwed.  If we're talking about large-scale commercial endeavors, then the focus here is on things like advertising, but also Public Relations; a large gaming company will inevitably have detractors, so it will also need defenders and promoters.

If we're talking about a small-print RPG, unless you're the RPGPundit or something, detractors are probably  not an issue you have to deal with; your main issue is going to be having people know you even exist. So besides focusing on writing a good game, you need to focus on creating good "buzz".  You need to start talking about the game and getting people to talk about it long before it even sees print.  This means posts on forums, on blogs, on G+, kickstarter campaigns (which are as much about getting attention as securing funds, a point some people don't quite gather sometimes), and generally creating an environment where there are people wanting to own the game before they even can.
This is, in fact, #1 by a HUGE margin.  It's more important than your rules, your art, or anything else. There are less worthy games that have sold far better than truly great games purely on the basis of having been able to drum up more effective promotion. So if 'commercial success' is your standard, this is the single biggest issue.   It's one reason to hire a Consultant like, oh say, me! Someone who won't just tell you what you're doing wrong in the rules, but who can also just by associating himself with the game create a buzz for it.

And, on that note, I'll point out that there's really no such thing as 'bad buzz'.  That's why people send me books to review that they KNOW, without a shadow of a doubt, I will despise. Because me utterly trashing their product will make them more famous and sell them more books. 

2. Presentation: Not every successful RPG needs to be a full-colour hardcover, though that doesn't hurt.  The thing is, just about every really successful game does something to create some kind of image for itself.  With an old-school RPG, this might mean having a look that is intentionally retro, for example.  Nor do you need to go insane with the art budget (that might even be detrimental, if it pushes the cost of your book beyond a certain tier), but it's important that it have some kind of appealing aesthetic, even if you're working mainly with public domain illustrations or the like.  Having some cool maps can't hurt either.

But really, there's one obvious element to presentation that I think matters more than any other: the cover.  It's what people will see first, be it in the local gaming store, or on RPGnow/amazon/whatever. Having the right cover might make the difference between people passing right by/scrolling right through, or stopping to look.  If you're going to to out of your way with one part, the cover is it.

3. The Right Balance of 'New' and 'Approachable': while just what's in your game matters less for commercial success than promotion, it can make a big difference for long-term viability.  You want to have a game that has a reason for existing; if your game has nothing at all that's new in it, there will be little reason for anyone to get it.  That's why the 53rd exact-Clone of OD&D is not going to really sell well even with the OSR anymore; but if you do something like Dungeon Crawl Classics, it will. You also can't be "too weird to live", at the same time. Something radically different (or just very radical) will end up costing you customers; it may get a tiny core of fanatics, if you're really lucky, but that will only matter if you can find ways to keep milking that core.

A safer bet is to produce something that is definitely approachable, that people will immediately know what to do with it, but that provides something different from what is already around.  Arrows of Indra, for example, has been a success by combining old-school D&D familiarity with the more 'exotic' element of Indian Mythology.

4. A "Killer App", Without Re-Inventing the Wheel: it is a mistake to recreate the whole notion of RPG rules just for it's own sake. Likewise, cheap gimmicks ("task resolution is done by using a dreidl instead of dice!") may generate a little buzz but is just as likely to turn people off.  What you want is to generally have a system that is quite familiar to people, even if it's not an OSR or D20 system game; even if you are making a new set of rules, have the familiar 'formula' of how to make those rules work: attributes, skills, abilities, etc.

But it can certainly work for you if, within either your rules or your setting, you have some kind of clever new application, a mechanic that sets your game apart from other OSR games, or other point-buy-games-vaguely-similar-to-WoD, or whatever. 

Look at D&D 5e, for example.  One of the things that is being praised about it is how much more approachable it is to D&D players than 4e was; it "feels" more like D&D. It uses "the best of all the older editions", etc.  But the areas where there has been innovation are getting huge buzz too, especially the "Advantage/Disadvantage" rules. These are the "killer App" that differentiates 5e from other editions and makes it stand out in its own right.  Now, had they tried to reinvent the wheel at every turn, you wouldn't be seeing the same kind of praise, and the truly awesome innovative bits would have been lost in a quagmire of needless and mediocre innovative bits.

It's tricky to know just how far to go with this, or just where the line is between "innovative mechanic" and "cheap gimmick"; that sort of thing is, unfortunately, largely a question of game design craft, not something that can be easily delineated into some kind of formula.  Another reason to get yourself a good game Consultant!  Did I mention I'm available at reasonable rates?

5. And Finally, Not Fucking Up: There's a reason I wrote a blog entry about why RPGs commercially fail, before ever getting around to why they succeed.  A large part of success amounts to Promotion + Not Fucking Up. In fact, while I put this in last spot, it should really be number two, right after Promotion.  It matters more than the other points. If your game is full of shitty writing, huge sections of irrelevant game fiction or weird jargon, a crappy system (for any of the reasons systems can be crappy; but mainly extreme-complexity... note that I'm not saying you can't do a rules-heavy game, but there's a huge difference between a rules-heavy game written in a way that is easy to quickly get into, and one that requires that you read through 400 pages of text and figure out complicated formulae before you could even make a character), or extremely limited appeal (due to extreme pseudo-artistic pretentiousness, or an over-specific theme or subject that hardly anyone would want to actually play), then hardly anything will save it.


Currently Smoking: Mastro De Paja Rhodesian + Image Perique

Friday, 25 July 2014

Exciting G+ Groups!

While I'm busy trying to write for my Albion project AND trying to catch up on the small mountain of reviews I have to write, I thought I'd share with y'all the two G+ groups I've made.

So, if you're interested in Lords of Olympus, be it that you've already got the game and want to talk about it, or are curious about the game and want to ask about it, be sure to check out the Lords of Olympus G+ Community!

And if you're interested in Arrows of Indra, for a like purpose,  be sure to likewise check out the Arrows of Indra G+ Community!

And after that shameless plug, I leave you for today to get writing.


Currently Smoking: Dunhill Shell Diplomat + C&D's Crowley's Best

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Dark Albion: Contents Preview

I've been quite busy these past few days trying to work on the Dark Albion project (the publication of my expanded OSR game setting in collaboration with Dominique Crouzet, author and publisher of the very popular Fantastic Heroes & Witchery RPG), and I have to say it's starting to form into something quite appealing.  I think this will end up making a really awesome OSR setting-book.

So I figured I'd share with you all some of the details of what Albion will feature.  Here's a rough outline of the table of contents as Dominique Crouzet and I are currently planning it:

Introduction - 14 pages
(will include an explanation of the basic ambiance of the game, its themes, and a guide to some of the background of the setting, including a brief chronology of historical events leading up to the Rose War)

The Gazetteer - 45 pages
(this is the guide to the locations in Albion, most of which was already published for free on this blog and compiled on theRPGsite's Dark Albion megathread)

Lands of the Continent - 10 pages
(a brief guide to the various countries of the Continent)

Character Creation - in progress
(guidelines for how to modify your preferred rules for creating characters specific to Albion.  Will include tables and rules for Social Class, home location, races and classes, starting money, equipment and economics)

Magic and Miracles - in progress
(guidelines for modifying your spellcaster classes to fit the Albion setting; including new spells)

Magic Items - in progress
(guidelines on how to handle magical items in the Albion setting, and some new or specific items)

Poisons, Herbalism and Alchemy - 3 pages
(rules and lists of poisons, herbal cures, and alchemical substances common in Albion)

Creatures - in progress
(some of the particular creatures of Albion)

Roads, Travels, and Encounters - 20 pages
(written by Dominique Crouzet, with additions and editing by the RPGPundit, this chapter presents guidelines and encounter tables for travel on the King's roads, in the wilderness, and in the cities and towns of Albion)

Chaos Cults - 10- 15 pages
(A collaboration between Crouzet and the Pundit, this give guidelines, rules and tables for handling Chaos Cults and characters who turn to the service of Chaos)

Adventure Locations - in progress
(A series of templates of typical locations and their adventuring potential, written by the Pundit and featuring some spectacular maps by Dominique Crouzet; these will include:
-Typical Barrow Mound
-Typical Goblin Warren
-Typical ancient tomb
-Typical Arcadian catacombs
-Typical Military Encampment
-At the Court
-At a Fair/Tourney)

Chronology of Potential Future Events  - 20 pages
(a detailed chronology of events that may take place in the course of the Rose War in Albion, as well as events on the Continent)

Important Characters of the Present and Future - 9 pages
(a list of the significant NPCs of the various noble houses of Lancaster and York)
Significant NPCs on the Continent - in progress
(important characters found on the Continent, including the Pontifex, the High Commander of the Clerical Order, Philip of Burgundy, Sir Pierre de Braap (general of the Frogmen forces), King Casimir Jagiello, King Mattias Corvinus, Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror, and the Princes Vlad Tepes and Radu Bey)

GM Secrets - in progress
(a detailing of some of the important secret events or secrets of important NPCs in the setting)

The Clerical Order - in progress
(more information on how the Clerics work in the setting, including their hierarchy and structure)

The Order of the Knights of the Star - 2 pages
(special information on the most important secular order of knights in Albion)

Appendix I: Conversion Notes for Fantastic Heroes & Witchery

Appendix II: Inspirational Reading, Viewing, and Gameplay

Appendix III: Locations of the Pieces of the Holy Lance of Mithras

Appendix IV: Dangers of the Orkney Isles

Appendix V: Quick Reference Lists
List of Anglish Kings
List of Clerical Commanders in Albion
List of Chancellors of the Magisterium, Oxford
List of Chancellors of the Magisterium, Cambridge
List of Clerical High Commanders
List of Pontifexes

So there we are.  The list above is still subject to change, but as you can see the end result is going to be a couple of hundred pages of awesomeness.  

Expect it sometime in 2015.


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